comScore

Judge sides with woman arrested by 'build the wall' Coon Rapids cop

Myriam Parada was driving some kids home from her little sister's birthday party in Coon Rapids when she got rear-ended... and arrested.

Myriam Parada was driving some kids home from her little sister's birthday party in Coon Rapids when she got rear-ended... and arrested. American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota

During the summer of 2017, 20-year-old Myriam Parada was driving a carload of kids home from her 15-year-old sister’s birthday party in Coon Rapids.

Then she got rear-ended by a 24-year-old white woman. She couldn't know it then, but in very short order, this fender bender would come to mess up Parada’s whole life.

Nobody got hurt. But when Parada said she didn't have a driver's license with her, the other driver called 911. Officer Nicholas Oman of the Coon Rapids Police Department responded, ran the other driver's license, and let her go free.

Parada, however, had to stick around. The fact was, she didn't have a driver's license. Instead, she presented Oman with an alternate form of photo ID from the Mexican consulate in St. Paul, one that stated her name, address, and date of birth. She’d been living in the United States for years after having come to the country legally as an 11-year-old child, court documents say. 

Oman had never seen one of these consular cards before, and there was little Parada could do to convince him she was who she said she was – even calling her stepfather, Gabriel Flores, who had his own driver’s license, to identify her on the scene.

Oman arrested Parada and took her to the Anoka County Jail, claiming he was “unable to positively identify her.”

Later, in response to a lawsuit Parada brought with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, Oman would testify that he’d arrested her because he didn’t believe Parada would make good on a citation issued at the scene – even though she was reportedly cooperative the whole time, and she had no history of failing to appear in court.

What happened when they got to the jail is “somewhat unclear,” according to court records. But we know Parada was, for some reason, held from early that evening until half past 1 a.m., according to jail records, and that she got a visit from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Court documents say Parada asked if she should have legal representation, and says she was told that “it goes faster without a lawyer.”

"I was tired. I wanted to go home. So when the agent began questioning me about my immigration status and my family, I answered honestly without an attorney," she later said in a statement. She wasn't sure at the time, she said, if she'd ever see her family again. 

ICE agents arrived at the jail in the wee hours of the next morning to take her into custody. She was handed a citation for driving without a license just before her transfer to Sherburne County. 

Parada filed suit because she felt her rights had been violated. She’s still facing removal proceedings, all because of an accident someone else caused, and was held in jail for much longer than she should have been – not because she had committed a crime, but because she was Mexican.

On Tuesday, Parada and the American Civil Liberties Union won a partial summary judgement in a U.S. District Court, where Judge John Tunheim ruled Anoka County's policy of contacting ICE about foreign-born people in its jail is a violation of the 14th Amendment.

“A reasonable jury could conclude Anoka County deputies slow-walked Parada’s release based solely on their interactions with ICE, which occurred solely because Parada was foreign-born,” Tunheim wrote. That case will move forward. How the Anoka County sheriff will fare in all this remains to be determined by a jury.

The judge also ruled against Oman's motion to dismiss the claim that he'd violated Parada's equal protection rights, citing the cop's disturbing social media activity. On Facebook, Oman had liked “a number of anti-immigrant or anti-Hispanic posts” on Facebook, including some “build the wall” content and a video of a border patrol agent knocking an immigrant off a ladder and putting them in a chokehold.

Oman had also encountered at least six other people who were driving without a license, none of them Hispanic, and hadn’t arrested any of them. Just Parada.

American Civil Liberties Union attorneys are calling it a promising start.

“The judge’s ruling today means this discriminatory and unconstitutional policy based on national origin will not stand,” staff attorney Ian Bratlie said in a statement. 

In her statement back in 2018, Parada said she took responsibility for driving without a license. But she "didn't deserve" to be treated the way she was. 

"No matter who you are, you should be able to call the police when you are a victim of a crime," she said. "But instead of helping me, Coon Rapids police just called ICE."